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Obama Orders Review of Nation's Energy Infrastructure

President Obama on Thursday ordered his administration to conduct a comprehensive review of the nation's energy infrastructure, an effort designed to not only address the age and capacity of the system, but also to meet the challenges posed by climate change, and cyber and physical threats.

According to the White House, the review -- officially, the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) -- will focus on the transport, transmission and delivery of energy. A task force co-chaired by the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Director of the Domestic Policy Council will spend the next four years conducting the review, and issue its first report with recommendations by Jan. 31, 2015.

"Our current infrastructure is increasingly challenged by transformations in energy supply, markets, and patterns of end use; issues of aging and capacity; impacts of climate change; and cyber and physical threats," Obama said in a memo Thursday. "Any vulnerability in this infrastructure may be exacerbated by the increasing interdependencies of energy systems with water, telecommunications, transportation, and emergency response systems.

"The first QER report will serve as a roadmap to help address these challenges."

The task force will include 23 key government officials, including the heads of the Departments of State, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission may also be invited to participate.

Additionally, the task force has been ordered to "gather ideas and advice" from state and local governments, the energy industry and other stakeholders.

"Because most energy and related infrastructure is owned by private entities, investment by and engagement of the private sector is necessary to develop and implement effective policies," Obama said. He later added that the task force "will offer recommendations on what additional actions it believes would be appropriate. These may include recommendations on additional executive or legislative actions to address the energy challenges and opportunities facing the nation."

The natural gas industry voiced strong support for the review.

"The participation of our industry in addressing infrastructure and other issues related to the greater use of natural gas is particularly important as the administration looks to chart a path forward on energy policy," said Marty Durbin, CEO of America's Natural Gas Alliance. "America's clean and abundant natural gas resource must be a central element of any plan addressing our nation's environmental, economic and energy security goals and we look forward to engaging constructively in the QER process."

Dave McCurdy, CEO of the American Gas Association, added that safety "is the top priority for America's natural gas utilities and our domestic abundance of natural gas is capable of providing clean energy at affordable and stable prices well into the future...We applaud the administration for their commitment to a clean and secure energy future and look forward to working with them to continue to deliver solutions for our economy and our environment."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday that it plans to issue more than 60 policy recommendations next week for improving the nation's energy infrastructure and reforming the regulatory process (see Daily GPI, Jan. 9).

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) urged Obama to lift restrictions on crude oil and condensate exports, and to issue executive orders to change the nation's energy policies (see Shale Daily, Jan. 7). However, the top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee refrained from calling for comprehensive legislation to reform the nation's energy laws.

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